Bad Idea Bulletin Board
So. It's final paper time here in academiaville, and I've noticed something that we immernet-olds have failed to do, which is to keep a public running tally of tools that have been built many times but have never worked.
When you have a lot of smart 19-year olds looking at the net, it's easy for them to conclude that anything that seems like a good idea but isn't available to them must not have been invented yet. As a result, many of their proposed future projects are really better conceived of as an archeological dig into the hard, cold earth of failure.
And so I find myself as That One Old Guy who is always saying "Oh yes, the tool for posting any piece of content to all your social networks, they've been working on versions of that since 'round about '96, with the first "Post to Geocities and iVillage tool..."
As you might imagine, these sorts of observations are always warmly received by my students -- you can picture their eager faces, eyes glistening with wonder, as they crowd around me, calling out "Tell us the story of Excite@HOME again, grampa!"
Aaaaanyway, we bury our dead quick and without headstones, here on the internet, and to remedy that, I want a list of the things that don't exist, not because they've never been tried, but because they've never taken off after being tried.
So, my beloved Ellohim, please help me flesh out this list:
* The Tool For Posting The Same Piece Of Content To Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Fetlife With One Click
* (@cstross Addendum): The Tool For Posting The Same Piece Of Content To LiveJournal, MySpace, AOL, Delphi, Compuserve and The WELL With One Click (This is an ancient pattern)
* The Tool For Recommending Articles/Conversations Whose Politics Are Diametrically Opposed To The One You Are Reading/Having
* (Related) The Tool For Fact-Checking That Article/Conversation
* (Related) The Space For Liberals And Conservatives To Converse Respectfully
* Micropayments (Side note: Jesus Horatio Christ, if you had told me that one little post at the turn of the century would commit me to battling micropayment fanboys for the next decade and a half...)
* The Tool To Make You Concentrate On Your Work
Added by @ferdiz:
* Conversation-as_content: The RSS-plus-conversations reader (aka "Everything-on-the-Web-in-One-Place")
Added by @zzkt:
* "All content has an unique location and is only ever passed by reference", aka Transclusion, aka Xanadu in all its "6 months from launch" form.
Added by @mlp:
* The (social) Network Where You Can Control Exactly Who Sees Your Content.
* The One True Annotation Tool
* (related) The One True Outlining Tool
* (related) The One True To-Do List Tool
* (related) The Truly Generic Dependency Manager
Added by @manypixels:
* The Tool That Replaces Email (Me: omg this should be #1 on the list...)
* The Definitive Front-end for LaTeX, revision control, package managers
* The one-size-fits-all team scaling method.
* Webpage change detectors. (Me: Having a Mark Pilgrim/Dave Winer flashback)
and, inspired by the commenters:
* The Tool Where People Diagram Their Arguments
* (related) The Tool Where People Diagram Their Legal Arguments
* (related) The Semantic Web as a Truth Engine
from the "I don't know how I forgot this one" department:
* The Animated Figure That Walks Users Through Setup/Help/Shopping Cart
And the thing about this list is that it might even help us form opinions about Things That Are Situationally Not A Good Idea (6degrees tanked in the 1990s, but Friendster blew up half a decade later; "video phone calls" were dumb until they were Skype) vs Things That Are Deeply Not A Good Idea (micropayments offer no service any user has ever wanted; liberals and conservatives disagree about premises, not just tactics.)
And the half-dozen bits there I've thrown up are just a tiny part of the internet's Non-performing Businesses Portfolio, just the bits I can remember on an idle Thursday morning. So what else? What's missing? What do you hear about and think "Wait, wat, that again?"